McIlroy, S., M. Teece, C.P. terHorst, and M. Coffroth. 2022.

McIlroy, S., M. Teece, C.P. terHorst, and M. Coffroth. 2022. Nutrient dynamics in coral symbiosis depend on both the relative and absolute abundance of Symbiodiniaceae species. Microbiome 10:192.

Background: Symbionts provide a variety of reproductive, nutritional, and defensive resources to their hosts, but those resources can vary depending on symbiont community composition. As genetic techniques open our eyes to the breadth of symbiont diversity within myriad microbiomes, symbiosis research has begun to consider what ecological mechanisms affect the identity and relative abundance of symbiont species and how this community structure impacts resource exchange among partners. Here, we manipulated the in hospite density and relative ratio of two species of coral endosymbionts (Symbiodinium microadriaticum and Breviolum minutum) and used stable isotope enrichment to trace nutrient exchange with the host, Briareum asbestinum.
Results: The patterns of uptake and translocation of carbon and nitrogen varied with both density and ratio of symbionts. Once a density threshold was reached, carbon acquisition decreased with increasing proportions of S. microadriaticum. In hosts dominated by B. minutum, nitrogen uptake was density independent and intermediate. Conversely, for those corals dominated by S. microadriaticum, nitrogen uptake decreased as densities increased, and as a result, these hosts had the overall highest (at low density) and lowest (at high density) nitrogen enrichment.
Conclusions: Our findings show that the uptake and sharing of nutrients was strongly dependent on both the density of symbionts within the host, as well as which symbiont species was dominant. Together, these complex interactive effects suggest that host regulation and the repression of in hospite symbiont competition can ultimately lead to a more productive mutualism.
Keywords: Symbiosis ecology, Coral, Nitrogen, Nutrient exchange, Mutualism, Stable isotopes

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